How the hell did the Atlanta Falcons do that?
It’s the question that’s going to be on everyone’s mind for the rest of the week, one that has an answer that defies logic and history. The Falcons, despite many opportunities to, did not Falcon.
Even after letting up a P.J. Walker bomb to D.J. Moore with seconds to go in the fourth quarter to almost give up the final lead, they didn’t lose. Even when quarterback Marcus Mariota threw an interception in overtime that set up the Carolina Panthers for a game-winning field goal, they didn’t lose. Even when it seemed like the Falconing was going to swallow up this team like a great beluga whale chowing down on a smattering of krill, they didn’t lose.
Sunday’s 37-34 win over the Panthers is, on the surface, just the ball bouncing in Atlanta’s favor after two less-than-stellar teams butted heads for three hours. Deep down, though, it’s a win not normally found in this team’s DNA. It’s a win where the Falcons held on in a rickety roller coaster ride from Hell, one they usually fly off of into the eternal flames of internet memes.
Call them good, call them bad, or call them lucky. That’s up to you. But the recent iterations of the Falcons never win games like this. When the math and probability go off the deep end, Atlanta usually comes up with the historic embarrassment. Not Sunday, though.
Under Arthur Smith, the Falcons have been able to gut out tough wins against level competition. That’s not a shock. Though, in a complete reversal of the team’s Week 1 collapse against the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons found themselves on the plus end of a bizarre finale. They actually closed it out, even when they absolutely shouldn’t have.
You can say the Panthers did this, and this, and this, and this wrong. Carolina probably should’ve won after wideout D.J. Moore’s absurd Hail Mary catch from QB P.J. Walker. They probably should’ve won after Marcus Mariota threw an interception. But they didn’t. The Falcons did. The Falcons actually won that game. The Falcons. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons. Our Atlanta Falcons.
Every now and then in the NFL, you’re always going to find yourself on the positive end of a wild football game. The Falcons have won insane games before. However, they often don’t win games like that. You know, those games where the Falconing begins to wrap tight like a hungry boa constrictor, or looms like a patch of dark clouds hiding a nasty thunderstorm.
After years and years of just waiting for the other shoe to fall (the Walker-to-Moore Hail Mary touchdown with seconds left in the game), the Falcons actually avoided the disaster.
The 2022 Falcons aren’t the best football team. Even if they win the NFC South, it doesn’t seem like they’d be able to do much. Though, at this point, who the hell knows? It’s starting to become pointless to try and pinpoint whatever is next for this team.
There comes a point where you just can’t know exactly what you’re going to get every week for these Falcons. Arthur Smith is fielding a big, confounding question mark every week, and an impossibly resilient one at that. They’re weird, exciting, frustrating, lacking, surprising, deflating and brilliant all in the same Sunday. Practically speaking, they’re 4-4 and atop the Hurl-a-Whirl that is the NFC South.
People can say the Falcons suck. They can say that Smith is breaking the offense by not throwing the ball to Kyle Pitts and Drake London a ton. They can make a bunch of half-assed assessments from the second oboe chair in the Fantasy Football Philharmonic all they want.
This franchise is never going to encourage positivity from everyone, and sometimes really anyone. The easy way to qualify the Falcons is always going to be with a punchline. Even for us, it’s a way of coping.
These Falcons, though? They’re not here for that. They’re going to take your calls for Desmond Ridder, your critiques of the passing attack, your lambasting of the defense, and your Falcons-blow-a-lead memes and cast them into a raging volcano.
This is the most fascinating Falcons team we’ve seen since the 2016 season. They’re not nearly as good, but damn it, they’re a lot of fun, pretty damn feisty and at least for Sunday, a bunch of unlikely winners.
Sunday’s win feels like a legitimate culture-changing moment for this franchise. What will that culture look like long-term? Will it lead to more wins? Will it lead to additional heart medication? Will it end in disaster? Will it end in a Super Bowl?
It’s impossible to know. But it’s new. It’s fresh. It’s freaking exciting and unexpected.
For the first time in forever, it genuinely feels like these aren’t the same-old Falcons.